The bully in kids’ pockets
By Darren Hayes, professor, Pace University Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information systems
More than 40% of kids have been bullied while online, while a staggering 58% of kids admit that someone has said hurtful things to them online. Nearly 60% of these kids have not informed their parents about being victimized. The recent highly-publicized cases of Tyler Clementi, from Rutgers University, and Phoebe Prince from Hadley, Massachusetts, highlight the need for greater awareness and education for children and their guardians.
Increasingly, the danger is right in kids’ pockets. One survey suggests that 22% of children aged 6-9 own a cellphone while 60% of kids between the ages of 10-14 do and 84% of teenagers aged 15-18 have one.
The rapid migration of technology to mobile devices, especially among the younger generations, also has prompted the move of cyber bullying to these devices. Today’s cell phones contain all of the tools necessary to intimidate through texting, e-mail or posting to online social networks in an effort to publicly humiliate a child.
Technology has enabled the bully to continue his harassment well beyond the classroom or schoolyard, and to be generally more determined and less intimidated because of the absence of face-to-face confrontation.
Computers and mobile devices do however provide a wealth of digital evidence to determine the perpetrators of harassment and ultimately intervene to protect the victims.
Much-needed legislation has come in the wake of cyber bullying tragedies. The states of New York and New Jersey recently passed anti-bullying laws; a program on the topic was recently held at the White House.
But the fight against the scourge of cyber bullying will only be effective with the support of people and groups like teachers, corporations, community leaders, prosecutors, and lawmakers. It is critical for all of these parties to meet and strategize to effect change in the community.
Safer use of mobile devices by young people will be the focus of a Mobile Safety Summit on Wednesday, March 16 involving students, policymakers, educators and members of the industry. The event will take place on Pace University’s campus in Pleasantville. Pace’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems is collaborating with the WiredSafety organization and its executive director, Parry Aftab, a leading international cyber safety expert.
The summit will focus on students and educators. The Verizon Foundation is providing a $15,000 grant to help bring information and awareness on mobile safety and cyber bullying to high school and college students, and to spread these concerns to adults who can act on them. The summit will help define the issues of mobile safety from students’ perspectives. Findings and ideas from this interactive discussion will be shared with key industry professionals, policymakers, parents, and school leaders.
Panels and breakout sessions will encourage participants to frame an action plan for moving forward on best practices in mobile safety. More information is available at http://seidenberg.pace.edu/cybersafety.